Industry Blasted by Change 2005
By Greg O’Sullivan
It’s Happened Now
Extensive changes are happening to the building industry. Now that the new Building Act 2004 has been passed, the building industry is about to experience the most radical change that it has ever undergone. People thought the Building Act 1991 did that. Unfortunately ten years on it has been found that it did not go far enough.
The Way It Was
The principles behind alternative solutions, that is innovative design and the need to have a provable, tested, design, calculated, or well supported base to that innovation was never accepted or understood by industry as a whole. Alternative solutions were frequently accepted by default. Manufacturers’ claims were accepted as proof. There was a general lack of overall testing of product and systems by the industry.

In this balmy atmosphere things were being easily accepted. There were prescriptive requirements found in the Acceptable Solutions and Verification Methods and Standards deemed by the Building Industry Authority, with some alteration, to be acceptable. These have now proved to be too loose. Also in 1996, untreated timber was introduced and said to be acceptable by the BIA in February 1998. This proved fatal.

There was a lack of training ? no longer were there cadets going forward to learn to be Building Officials for Territorial Authorities or a strong apprenticeship base to the building industry. People learnt “on the job”. If Joe said it was right he passed it to Charlie, he passed it to Jane, she passed it to Sally who passed it on to Fred. So poor practice resulted. Also “superglues” and super sealants and wonderful practices of mystical and black magic arts of squirt and cover it over abounded.

The New Beginning
Now there is regulation to an extent never seen before. By the end of November the Building Industry Authority will disappear. This function will be part of the Department of Building and Housing. A Chief Executive, who is a senior bureaucrat, will be in control. The Chief Executive will have an advisory body similar to the previous BIA board.

Other advisory guideline groups will assist with building exteriors, fire, structure etc.

Builders and designers within five years will need to be licensed to undertake most building practices. The “do it yourself” by home owners will be limited. It won’t disappear but the scope will be severely restricted. There is now consumer protection where before none existed. The Act has introduced entirely new principles such as sustainability, control of water use, energy and the control of waste. It also introduces the principle of lifecycle performance of the building materials. These factors all need to be taken into account along with the old areas of health, safety, fire and providing for disabled persons.

What Is Waiting Around The Corner?
Within three years the industry is going to have to understand and accept a re-drafted Building Code. Far more in depth prescriptive solutions are likely. E2/AS1 – External Moisture Third Edition is such a document. It has bought both praise and horror to some. The horror being where they (manufacturers’ products) are not part of that prescriptive base. Territorial Authorities will become Building Consent Authorities and also this is a potential place for Building Certifiers, though the liability issues seem to be a bit of hurdle for them to overcome. Design and construction will require licensed practitioners.

This will happen while the industry is reasonably busy. The men and women that make up the industry are already working from the early hours of the morning into the night. Now they will have to find time to gain further education and understanding of these changes and their role.

Treatment is Back And Science Has Arrived
I am delighted that the use of untreated timber is now more limited. Building science has come to the fore with the Government now spending money on cladding science. In the future we will be able not only to think we are doing it right, we will have scientific testing, back-up and proof that we are doing it right. There is little doubt that these changes will allow the industry to go forward with confidence. Consumers will be better served. Our children will have houses that they can buy that have been better built by previous generations. The need to continually repair or replace many failing houses will gradually decline. These are all positives for the future.
GregGreg O’Sullivan is the founding director of Prendos Limited and an expert in the area of building failure and in particular, weathertight issues and has, in the past, highlighted to the industry many of the material failures occurring with products used to clad buildings. He is a Registered Building Surveyor, Immediate Past President of the Institute of Building Surveyors and a Founding Member of that Institute, BRANZ Accredited Adviser, Fellow of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand and sits on both Mediation and Arbitration Panels and is on the Advanced Panel for Mediation with LEADR.

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